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John Foxe on Thomas Cranmer

November 19, 2014

“In the mean while, being addicted to no party or age, he weighed all men’s opinions with secret judgment. He read the old writers, so as he despised not the new, and, all this while, in handling and conferring writers’ judgments, he was a slow reader, but an earnest marker. He never came to any writer’s book without pen and ink, but yet he exercised his memory no less than his pen. Whatsoever controversy came he gathered every author’s sentence, briefly, and the diversity of their judgments, into common places, which he had prepared for that purpose; or else, if the matter were too long to write out, he noted the place of the author and the number of the leaf, whereby he might have the more help for his memory.”

(from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs [1563])

Foxe includes this delightful story with Cranmer’s grisly death:

“[A] solemn ambassage was sent to the Bishop of Rome, then being at Bologna, wherein went Dr. Cranmer and divers other learned men and gentlemen, A.D. 1530. And when the time came that they should declare the cause of their ambassage, the Bishop, sitting on high in his cloth of estate and in his rich apparel, offered his foot to be kissed of the ambassadors. The Earl of Wiltshire, disdaining thereat, stood still, and made no countenance thereunto, so that all the rest kept themselves from that idolatry. Howbeit, one thing is not here to be omitted, which then chanced by a spaniel of the Earl of Wiltshire. For he stood directly between the Earl and the Bishop of Rome, when the said Bishop had advanced forth his foot to be kissed. The spaniel straightway went directly to the Pope’s feet, and not only kissed the same unmannerly, but took fast with his mouth the great toe of the Pope, so that in haste he pulled in his feet: our men smiling in their sleeves.”

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